Demos (2007) on creativity

17 January 2007

Returning to the Demos report I see a weak if discernible thread running through it – the relationship between creativity and technology. Or, put another way, the ways in which technology supports or enhances creative skills.

The report cites earlier Demos research in which young people are asked to rank ‘life skills’ in order of importance. Creativity comes a ‘only the eighth most important’ (page 27). In considering the life skills a dichotomy is established between traditional skills for the knowledge economy and the newer skills developed through growing up with technology. These are equated, in some ways, to creativity – or at least to those needed for the creative industries (p 24). Further, when surveying parents, 47% of men and 40% of women believed that their children’s use of technology helped developed creativity.

What are these skills? One set in the report (p 23) looks at those related to the role of guildmaster in the game World of Warcraft. Here it lists those that are to do with group development, apprenticeship, group strategies and dispute management. It goes on to argue that these ‘soft skills’ cannot be pigeonholed into one (or more subjects) and that there is a false split between knowledge and skills.

On the other hand these creative skills can be harnessed in both formal and informal contexts so long as the school does not block of, or deny, the technology that is an everyday part of the learner’s lives. In doing so, I believe, there would be greater potential for the detachment of assessment of the skills and knowledge acquired through using technology from the assessment of them.

But what is creativity? The NACCCE report has a definition ‘imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value’ (1999:29). For me there is an interesting exploration here – is what is learnt in informal contexts more ‘imaginative’ and ‘original’ than in formal context, simply by its very nature? Or might that be the perception of learners and teachers?

Another angle on this comes in the Becta report by Twining et al (2006). Here the constraining nature of an assessment-led curriculum is seen as a barrier to creativity:

Assessment and curriculum are closely connected, and while there is little in the way of empirical research that indicates a clear link between the introduction of the National Curriculum and National Strategies and a reduction in risk taking in schools, there is substantial support for this view within the education community (Hacker and Rowe 1997; Harlen 2005; Harlen and Crick 2002; Black and Wiliam 1998). This is accompanied by advocacy of the need to adjust the curriculum and assessment to place greater emphasis on creativity and higher-level skills. The ‘thinning down’ of the National Curriculum in 2000 (DfEE 2000) and the introduction of the new Primary Strategy (DfES 2003), which place emphasis on creativity, suggest that a shift is occurring at least at the ‘lower’ end of the education system.

(page 56)

Twining P et al (2006) Educational change and ICT: an exploration of Priorities 2 and 3 of the DfES e-strategy in schools and colleges: The current landscape and implementation issue, Coventry: Becta

NACCCE (1999) All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education. London: DfEE/DCMS